Governor: RPS Order "Stronger than Law"

Gov. Schwarzenegger fields questions from Greg Dalton of the Commonwealth Club's Climate One initiative. Photo: Governor's Office

Gov. Schwarzenegger fields questions from Greg Dalton of the Commonwealth Club's Climate One initiative. Photo: Governor's Office

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is defending his planned veto of two renewable power bills, saying the executive order he issued instead is “stronger than the law” because it places fewer limitations on electricity imported from other states.

At the tail end of the legislative session, California’s assembly and senate passed separate bills requiring the state’s utilities to draw a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. But during a Q&A session at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club Thursday, the Governor said that the recently passed bills were “for special interests” and that they “represented protectionism,” the latter a reference to limits on how much energy could be imported from neighboring states. The Governor’s own executive order has the same proportional requirement or “renewable portfolio standard” (RPS) as the bills but sets no limits on imported power. Also unlike the legislature’s bills, the order does not exclude particular sources, such as hydro-electric from the definition of “renewables.”

Critics contend that succeeding governors might simply rescind the order, which Governor Schwarzenegger does not deny. He faces an October 11 deadline to veto the bills.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s appearance was designed to mark the third anniversary of the state’s adoption of AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, a law which has its own detractors.

Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, who is running for governor said last week that she would issue a moratorium on most AB 32-related rules on her first day as Governor.  When asked about  Whitman’s remarks Schwarzenegger dismissed her comments as “just rhetoric.”

“I think she will probably reconsider what she has said and will see that the greatest thing that can happen for California is to move forward. I’m sure she does not want to be counted as one of those Republicans that want to move us back to the Stone Age,” he said.

Touting the state’s achievements in renewable energy innovation, emissions reductions,  and technology, the Governor painted a rosy picture of an invigorated economy, new jobs, and a cleaner environment throughout the state.

“A wave of green innovation is washing over our state right now,” he said.  “In last three years,  scientists and entrepreneurs have pumped more than $6 billion of venture capital into California.  Since 2005, green jobs in California have grown ten times faster than other jobs. California companies hold more than 40% of the nation’s new patents in solar and wind technology, and solar installations this year alone in California have gone up by 120%.”

Focusing largely on projected economic benefits, he made a case for continuing on the path California started three years ago with AB 32 and is continuing under his executive order from earlier this month, saying that the current path offers far more economic opportunity than economic risk.

“I know that it’s possible to protect the environment and the economy at the same time,” he said. “Technology will save us all. It’s all about technology, technology, technology. ”

Not all of the speech was about legislation, green technologies and the economy, however. The Governor did respond to a question from  group of fourth-graders attending the talk, asking what he says to his children about climate change.

“I’ve had major fights with my kids,” he said.

He said he has imposed a five-minute shower rule in his house and that he sometimes “spies” on his children to make sure they are obeying his order.

“If their showers are more than five minutes, there will be consequences.”

He added that other environmental steps his family has taken at home are to install solar panels nearby to provide energy for the family swimming pool and jacuzzi, and that they have converted the regular engines on their Hummers to hydrogen or bio-fuel engines.